New Scientist -- Issue 19 March 05

Article ID: 510490

Released: 16-Mar-2005 9:10 AM EST

Source Newsroom: New Scientist

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MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 19 MARCH 2005 (Vol. 185 No 2491)

NEWS:

THESE STEM CELLS ARE ANIMAL-FREEThree teams have managed to grow the first human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) without using any animal products which may contaminate them. Until now it has been impossible to grow ESCs without using mouse "feeder cells" and animal-derived serum, which risk tainting the stem cells with animal diseases or substances that would trigger transplant rejection. Page 15

SUPERFLARES COULD KILL UNPROTECTED ASTRONAUTSA study of the most powerful solar flare ever recorded, which left evidence behind in Greenland's ice nearly 150 years ago, suggests that another flare like it could kill astronauts in poorly shielded spacecraft. Based on the radiation effects from this superflare, American researchers calculated the radiation doses astronauts would receive behind only a few centimetres of aluminium " the shielding you'd find on an average spacecraft. The found it was enough to cause acute radiation sickness and possibly death. This may have implications for the choice of material used for spacecraft on missions to Mars. Page 10

NO DIOXIN STUDYVietnam claims that the herbicide Agent Orange used by the US during the Vietnam war was responsible for deformities in the children and grandchildren exposed to it. The US has never accepted this, but we are now unlikely to ever find out who's to blame. The chances of the issue ever being resolved receded last month when the US cancelled a multimillion-dollar research project. Page 7

HOW TO RECALL THE FACE THAT FITSA new type of software can "evolve" a realistic photofit of a victim's attacker in minutes. The novel technology, launched in London last week, uses algorithms to mutate and evolve a set of variants on a photofit face until the witness is happy with the likeness. In early tests, volunteers were twice as likely to recognise a face constructed through this algorithm software as through today's computerised mugshots. Page 24

PAY UP, YOU'RE BEING WATCHEDPeople are more likely to be generous if they're being watched " even by a robot. American researchers found that even though we know robots aren't real, gazing at the cute-eyed Kismet robot triggered something subconsciously that made people believe they were being watched and therefore more likely to donate to charity. Page 12

THE WORLD'S FIRST BLACK HOLE, AT A COLLIDER NEAR YOUA fireball created in a particle accelerator in New York bears a striking similarity to a black hole. When gold nuclei were smashed into each other at high speed, the intense heat created particles that formed a ball of plasma. A physicist claims his calculations show the core of this fireball match the characteristics of a black hole. But if he's right, it poses no danger. Page 16

FEATURES:

13 THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSEThere are many real scientific observations that defy explanation. Michael Brooks explores the following anomalies, among others, that if explained could rewrite all the books. Pages 30-37- Can a placebo really cure an illness? - How can homeopathic remedies heal when all the patients are getting is diluted water? - Dark matter makes up about 90 per cent of the mass in the universe and yet we still don't know what it is. - According to the laws of physics, tetraneutrons just simply shouldn't exist. - What's causing the Pioneer spacecrafts to speed up?- Calculations point to a 10th planet at the edge of the solar system, but no one's ever seen it.-It's deemed impossible by scientific theory, but cold fusion is back.

FOR THE LOVE OF CRYSTALSFour years ago, work involving the field of organic electronics collapsed in tatters as it was revealed a physicist had fabricated results. But thanks to inspired researchers who believed in the idea, many labs are now making revolutionary transistors from organic crystals. Pages 38-41

THE CURE THAT CAME IN FROM THE COLDBefore the antibiotics era, antibody-rich serum was used by doctors to successfully combat big killers like pneumonia and meningitis. Now, with more bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics together with new emerging infectious diseases, antibody therapies are once again showing great promise. Pages 42-45

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